Changes Between V3.2A and V4.0A of "The Earth Centered Universe Pro"
New Miscellaneous Features:
- A new dialog box called "Stars..." has been added to the "Field" menu. This dialog box allows advanced control of the various stellar databases included or supported by ECU. It also includes the previous contents of the "Hubble GSC Settings..." dialog box.
- The meridian line has been added (a line from north to south through the zenith).
- Custom horizon lines have been added. This feature draws a line on the sky that is intended to represent your local horizon considering obstructions (buildings, trees, etc.) at your observing site. The active one is selected from up to four observing sites.
- Text labels can now be auto-placed (on screen and on printed charts) to avoid overlapping text in crowded fields. If text is moved from its usual location, a line is drawn from the text to the object location.
- The minimum field height has been reduced from 0.5 to 0.1 degrees.
- You can sync your time/date and geographic location from a GPS receiver connected to a serial port. The GPS receiver must support and be configured to use the NMEA0183 format (this includes most GPS receivers). You can also optionally set the PC's clock from the GPS (Windows 95 and later only).
- A configurable "Object Report" can be generated on request. This report creates a text file containing detailed information about all specified objects currently plotted on the sky display or printed chart. This file contains essentially the same information displayed in the "Identify Object" dialog box for each object. It can easily be imported into Microsoft Excel, another spreadsheet, or database software for manipulation.
- The "Identify Object" dialog box includes the following enhancements:
- Airmass and Extinction are now displayed. Airmass is an estimate of how much atmosphere you are looking through compared to straight up - as airmass increases objects become dimmer and seeing (atmospheric turbulance) becomes worse. The airmass increases as objects become closer to the horizon. Extinction is an estimate (in magnitudes) for how much an object is "dimmed" due to the current airmass.
- Fixed the Moon Age calculation - previously it was just an estimate based on the phase angle - now the current date and time are subtracted from date and time of the last New Moon.
- The image display feature has been totally revamped. ECU now looks for both image files (jpg, gif, etc.) and text files (containing a list of up to 50 image filenames for the object). The text files can contain image filenames referring to images in the same directory or from any location on your computer.
- A continuous display of sky darkness has been added to the status line and status box. The sky darkness display indicates either "Daylight" or the current level of twilight if the Sun is below the horizon. It also indicates if the Moon is down or up - if up, the illumination of the Moon is given.
- An advanced deep sky magnitude limit mode has been added to the "Magnitude Limits..." dialog box which provides separate magnitude limits for each of the six main object types.
- User Objects now have their own separate magnitude limit setting in the "Magnitude Limits..." dialog.
- You can now control whether or not the date and time is added to "notes" files each time they are accessed.
- In the "Database Search..." feature, only databases currently enabled are searched (this was made more consistent than before).
- The planets, Sun, Moon, and orbits (comets/asteroids) can now be searched in "Database Search..." feature.
- More toolbar buttons have been added, including those for Open..., Save, Print , North, South, East, West, and delete last Field Target. The toolbar can now be split into two lines when the ECU window is too small for all the buttons to fit.
- Several of the old toolbar buttons have been re-drawn (thanks to ECU user Len Benschop who created most of the new ones too).
- The maximum number of "Field Targets" has been increased from 25 to 100.
- A "cancel" button has been added to the "Sun and Moon Data..." dialog box (so that if you change the date within the dialog box you don't lose your current date and time in ECU).
- A "Use System Time" button has been added to the "Enter Time..." dialog box to make it easier to set the ECU date and time to your PC's clock.
- You can now toggle between two animation steps (perhaps a short step and a long step) by right-clicking on the "Step" entry of the "Status Line".
- The keyboard equivalents for Horizontal and Vertical Flip have been changed to "H" and "V" (from Control-H and Control-V).
- Removed "Alt-D" keyboard equivalent for "Database Search..." ("Control-F" still works).
- The sky display is not redrawn automatically (in "Use System" time mode only) if it has already been redrawn within 5 seconds - this is done so that sky draws that take a long time (especially on slow computers) don't cause a redraw right away.
- Charts can now be printed in full colour! You also have full control over the colours used.
- A configurable split chart mode has been added that prints two charts on one page at two different zoom levels. This could be used to create finder charts for objects with a wide and narrow field of view.
- There are now more descriptive labels in the "Title" box.
- Comet tails are now drawn on printed charts (somehow missed in previous version).
- RA, Dec, and Field Size are now displayed at higher resolution in the "Title" box.
- Added full support for the Tycho-2 star database (about 2.5 million stars to about magnitude 12-13). Stars from the Hipparcos Catalog were added to supplement those that were not included in the Tycho-2 (this included many bright stars). The database includes, if available, the Tycho-2 and Hipparcos catalog numbers, RA/Dec position, B and V magnitudes, proper motion, and parallax (with implied distance).
- Efficient support has been added to access the US Naval Observatory USNO-S2 (about 500,000,000 stars to magnitude >19) and USNO-SA2 (about 50,000,000 stars spacially sampled - not very useful for making charts). Due to licensing issues, this catalog is not provided by Nova Astronomics - it can be downloaded (using high-speed internet and lots of patience - it is about 6.5 gigabytes) from the USNO.
- Hubble Guide Stars can now be searched by their catalog number.
- More Named Deep Sky Objects have been added.
- The stored resolution of the Yale Bright Star Catalog has been greatly increased.
- Many more images of deep sky objects are included, thanks to contributions from ECU user Walter MacDonald.
- Added comprehensive "client" support for the ASCOM (Astronomy Common Object Model) initiative's telescope drivers (see www.ascom-standards.org). This community-developed initiative aims to standardize interfaces between astronomy software and the vast array of computerized telescopes (and other astronomy devices) available. This effectively adds a whole array of new telescopes (and focusers) that are now compatible with ECU. For the current list click here. This feature is only available to those running Windows 95 and later.
- Improved support for the Losmandy Gemini Goto System (levels 1 to 3). This includes setting drive rates, parking, and control of syncing to be either a "sync" or "additional align".
- Added a large "Center Scope" box for all non-Goto telescopes which can be easily seen a large distance from the screen.
- Made some small improvements to the WinCTC telescope.
- The "Show Coordinates" box displays telescope positions at higher precision.
- Scope speeds and focus modes in the "Telescope Control" box are now saved (previously the default values were used each time the box was displayed).
- Increased the number of accessible communications ports from 4 to 16.
- Added specific support for BBAstroDesigns (Mel Bartels) "scope.exe" telescope control system. In particular, it transmits the RA in higher precision supported only by "scope.exe".
- Added support for Orion's Intelliscope Object Locator device.
- The telescope interface functions are no longer disabled when loading orbit files.
- Orbits (comets/asteroids)
- All orbit functions have been moved to a new top-level menu (Orbits).
- In the "Search Orbits..." feature, a maximum magnitude search criteria has been added and you can also now search for orbits by name.
- A new feature called "Filter Orbits..." allows you to filter (enable/disable) the currently loaded orbit database based on the same set of criteria available in the "Search Orbits..." feature.
- A new "Download Orbits..." dialog box provides the ability to download (from the Internet) the elements of comets and asteroids directly from the IAU's Minor Planet Center. This includes the observable comets, critical minor planets, near-earth and unusual minor planets, and three user customizable download locations. Support is also provided to update ECU's minor planet database from the Lowell Observatory's Orbit Database.
- An "Append New Orbits" feature adds orbits loaded from an orbit file after the last loaded orbit rather than overwriting the orbit database.
- Comets and Asteroids now have their own separate magnitude limit settings in the "Magnitude Limits..." dialog box.
- The number of simultaneous orbits has been increased from 400 to 1000 (trails can only be plotted for the first 500 orbits).
- Changed comet brightness calculation so that correct magnitudes are calculated when using elements produced by the IAU's Minor Planet Center.
- Added a "Delete All Orbits" function.
- The storage of orbital elements has been made much more efficient. Only those orbits that contain valid elements are saved to the configuration files, which makes them much smaller.
- The "Planets..." menu item was moved to a more logical place in the "Field" menu.
- Updated planet magnitude calculations to be more consistant with those published in the US Naval Observatory's Astronomical Almanac.
- "Center on Named Deep Sky Object..." has been renamed to "Center on Named Object...".
- Lots of "internal" improvements which make ECU even more memory/speed efficient and precise than earlier versions.
- Most object types are now plotted at much higher precision (required for the new smaller field sizes).
- Object trails are now stored more precisely (required for the new smaller field sizes).
- Local Horizon labels are now drawn below the line.
- Seconds have been added to the "Centre On RA/Dec..." dialog box. RA/Dec can now be entered in a variety of formats including decimal hours/degrees, floating point minutes, and floating point seconds - in addition to hours/degrees, minutes, and seconds.
- Increased the displayed precision in the "Angular Separation" box.
- The '\" character is automatically added in places where it might be needed in specifying directory names.
- Configuration files from versions 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2 of ECU are automatically read and converted to V4.0 format. This operation is totally transparent. Remember, however, that files written by V4.0 cannot be read by earlier versions.
- Added a feature to use "stock" mouse pointers instead of ECU's "custom" mouse pointers. This feature was added because some video drivers do not properly support (Windows 3.1) custom mouse pointers.
- The Hubble Guide Star Catalog "plot on demand" feature has been removed.
- Removed the user object label "nudging" - not needed with new "Auto Place Labels" feature.
- The default directory is now saved in the ecu.ini file.
- Fixed bug in the Track Coordinates feature - it was sticking on for Ctrl-?? keyboard equivalents.
- Fixed bug that caused the "Angular Separation" box to come up if you right-clicked the mouse while moving the mouse a bit when trying to pan around the sky.
- Fixed bug that caused one of the color entries to not be handled properly when upgrading older configuration files.
- Fixed bug in planet position calculations over time scales of less than 1 hour. This bug, which has apparently been there since the beginning of ECU, caused small errors (typically a few arc-seconds non-cumulative) in planet position calculations.
- Fixed bug which caused user object files to not be re-loaded when a new configuration file was loaded.
- Fixed bug that caused constellation lines to be drawn at weird angles when zoomed in close.
- Fixed sync bug for all Meade LX200-type telescopes (it was previously was precessing the coordinates twice).
- Fixed bug that caused the default field target to still display even when lines were turned off.
- Fixed bug that caused the default field target to not appear on printed charts.
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Last Updated: September 18, 2004 by Webmaster, Nova